You’ve all heard me talk about team Tornado Hunter and how much I look forward to the summer storm chasing season. These guys are awesome. Okay, in all honesty I’ve only met Greg, but I hope to remedy that sometime soon. I’ve chatted with Ricky a fair bit and I am so glad that he agreed to be part of this blog series! In fact, he’s going to lead the way in what I hope will be a good bunch of storm chaser chats!
Hey Ricky, thanks for being willing to answer a few questions for me! I’m a pretty big fan of storm chasing and I’m excited to chat with you about it.
Tell me, what drew you to storm chasing?
Originally it was the elusiveness of catching a storm and the majestic beauty of Mother Nature. Now it’s all that plus the adventure and friends. It has become one of my favourite pastimes.
It does look awesome! I can’t wait to get out there next year! Do you remember the first tornado you ever saw in the field and can you tell me a bit about it?
I’ll never forget it! It was the Great Bend EF-4 of April 14, 2012. It produced 12 tornadoes over a 3 hour period with little damage to a few farm yards and no one injured. At points we were within 100 yards, right beside it, hearing the whistling roar, seeing debris flying everywhere, and other points we were sitting still watching it off in the distance only to meet up with it again. It was the best day for a storm chaser. I was definitely spoiled.
That would have been amazing to see! How did you end up teaming up with Greg?
I got in touch with Greg through a mutual friend. Originally I was meant to go out in the backseat handling the computer and camera gear – and immediately got put in the driver’s seat! It’s been a great trip and only getting better.
I know that you are an integral part of the team and that there is more to your role than just driving ‘Flash’ to the storm, can you tell me what your role involves?
Behind the scenes I handle all aspects for the website – it’s my profession in the off-season so I am the go-to guy for that. On the road it is also my duty to share our adventures real-time with social media as much as I can, as Greg and Chris are busy capturing the storm.
On the live feed we often see Greg giving you directions on where to drive. Does he make that decision alone or do you guys discuss it before you head out for the day? Is it always a group decision when you are debating on staying with your current storm or chasing another more promising one?
Lots of times those directions are last minute decisions. We can have a general idea before the storm of our road networks in relation to where we think the storm will be, but that all changes once the game starts. Factors such as the storm direction, high traffic areas, damaged roads, etc. impacts our directions. Once in the moment it is very much up to Greg and Chris on what they think the best routes are as my focus is on driving.
It is always a group decision on deciding whether to leave a storm or stay on a storm. We all bring our different backgrounds and experiences to the table and we quickly discuss all factors to make a smart decision.
It’s awesome how you guys work together so well! If you can narrow it down, what was the best chase you ever had?
That’s a tough one! It would have to be the first tornado I ever saw – the April 14, Great Bend tornado. There was so many amazing moments and sights we got to see. At one point we were on a closed off freeway with the tornado slowly circulating over top of us, moments like that take your breath away.
This year you had some pretty intense experiences. Was El Reno the most intense chase that you’ve ever been on?
El Reno was the most intense situation I have ever been in! That tornado was later declared to be the world’s largest tornado on record and for good reason. The way it moved and built so fast was unreal.
In the El Reno situation, when you found yourselves in a very dangerous situation, what went through your head when you knew it was up to you to get the team away from danger? Did you just rely on instinct at that point?
That’s a tough one, gives me the chills a bit thinking back to that moment. The roar of the tornado was all around us, our ears had popped from the pressure change, buildings were be torn apart and being thrown into us, and our exits were blocked. I hit the sketchy ditch as our last resort and hammered on the gas. We lucked out making it through there, at one point all of our tires were off the ground. While in the ditch we saw a large 2 ton grain farm truck fly through the air and land in the ditch, barely dodging it bringing us out of the ditch and on our way to safety. Literally felt like a moment out of Twister.
I remember that on the live feed. My heart was nearly stopping and I wasn’t even there!